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Time to prepare for severe weather in Illinois

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(The Center Square) – With extreme weather a fact of life in Illinois, the state is urging residents to be ready during Severe Weather Preparedness Month.

This month, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Office of Homeland Security is emphasizing the need to stand prepared against tornadoes, flooding and other acts of nature.

Emergency preparedness kits and other resources are available to help families cope with disaster.

Christine Wielgos, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said that severe weather is going to happen but with proper planning, residents can aim to stay safe.

“Pretty much any type of severe weather that exists does happen in southern Illinois,” Wielgos told The Center Square. “Unfortunately, we’ve had our fair share of tornadoes across southern Illinois, wind damage and large hail, and even flash flooding events so that’s pretty common.”

She added that one of the worst tornadoes in history happened in southern Illinois.

Because of the unpredictability of such disasters, Wielgos recommends that residents have different ways to get alerts, including radio for overnight advisories. Deaths often happen when people are sleeping and don’t know to take cover, she said, estimating “85% of all the tornado deaths that we’ve had probably over the last 25 to 30 years have happened at night.”

Since flooding is also common, she recommends taking the time to review insurance coverage or start a policy if necessary. Coverage is available for many through the National Flood Insurance Program.

As far as other readiness tips, Wielgos recommends an emergency plan that takes the guesswork out of where to go during a tornado or other extreme event.

“It’s one of those things where you need to be aware of what’s going on and understand what your threats are,” she said.

Additionally, Wielgos suggested customizing your emergency kit, with medications, important documents, a change of clothing, a flashlight and other essentials you will need for a few days away.

Severe weather and flooding in Illinois resulted in two Presidential Disaster Declarations in 2023 relating to more than $462 million in destruction.

For more tips on surviving a weather disaster, including how to shelter in place, visit Ready.Illinois.gov.

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